Last week we were excited to be joined by New York-based teachers, tutors and study experts Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer for our webinar “Home Study 101: how teens can study independently and superpower their learning”. The evening was full of loads of advice for parents and teens on how they can nail their homework and revision habits to underpin their academic success at school. Here are just six pieces of advice to help you support your child’s home study routine.
1. Help them do the toughest task first
This was Brian and Abby’s number one top tip when it came to working out what to work on when. Their logic here is that, as an evening goes on, if your child is putting off what they’re most intimidated by – say revising for a Chemistry test – then as the evening goes on, they’ll become more tired and more intimidated as each hour goes by. If they do their most intimidating task first though, then they can face it with their maximum effort and energy – and then it’s done.
2. Help them map out their whole week at once
When your teen gets home from school, working out what is due on what day, how long each task will take and which they should do today versus tomorrow can make them feel anxious – and take a big chunk of time out of the afternoon. If they know when they sit down at their desk (/sofa/kitchen table) exactly what they’ll be getting on with, it can take out a lot of the fuss and faff. Sitting down either on a Friday, on the weekend or (at the latest!) on a Monday afternoon to plan out the week ahead will help them stay assured that they will definitely get everything they need to complete that week done – no unexpected running out of time because it’s all scheduled in. So they’ll be able to focus more and feel less anxious when they think about what they’ve got to do.
3. If they’re feeling demotivated, help them focus on just what’s in front of them
It’s been a hugely disrupted year-and-a-bit in education, and it’s no shock if your teen is feeling a bit demotivated by it all. When we asked Brian and Abby how they have managed to help their own students find enough motivation to get on with the school work they need to do, Brian emphasized the importance of taking a step back from the longer term view. For example, if a teen is worried about how they’ll do in a Maths exam, they might also worry about “if I don’t get a good grade, I won’t get into university, and then I won’t get my dream job, so what’s the point in even trying?!”. Sound familiar? It’s easy for teens to spin themselves into a panic sometimes, but as a parent you can help a lot by encouraging them to focus just on the task at hand.
4. If they’ve lost confidence, celebrate non-academic wins
As well as a loss of motivation, the disruption of the last year has made a lot of teens lose confidence in their academic ability. Abby and Brian emphasised how it’s totally fair enough for teens to be feeling a bit worn down from the last year – and that most people in the world are feeling the same right now! But as well as the comfort of perspective, as parents you can help your child grow their confidence by regularly celebrating small academic and non-academic successes. This could be cooking something really delicious for dinner one evening, or finally understanding a topic they’ve been struggling with in a particular subject. Any example of them putting in effort and seeing it pay off is a great opportunity to encourage them and help them feel proud of themselves – and by working on their self-esteem over time they can gradually re-develop their confidence and take that back into the classroom.
5. Make small weekly goals
On the note of focusing on small wins to help grow your teen’s confidence, another way to help them build their academic progress is to make a few small goals for them to focus on each week. Abby suggested, for example, if a teen is shy, that they aim to contribute to class discussion 3 times over the course of a week. It might sound small, but focusing on achieving something that’s just a little bit outside their comfort zone means that once they’ve done it, they can make their goals a tiny bit more ambitious each week, until they’re achieving things they previously didn’t think they’d be capable of.
6. Encourage them to ask for help when they need it
Both Abby and Brian were clear that a teen’s success is a team effort – with the help of parents, teachers, tutors and any other influential adults in their life, they’re not alone in their academic journey. What Abby also made very clear as well was that teens should be their own biggest advocates. In other words, the more they tell teachers where they’re struggling, what they did or didn’t cover last term, and what does and doesn’t make sense to them will massively help their teachers to help them.
We know that the classroom environment can be intimidating, and a great place for teens to practice being open when they find something tricky is in lessons with a 1-1 tutor. Because our online tutors are just a few years ahead in their education, they double as role models, putting their students at ease and making them feel comfortable asking for help. Once they realise there’s no shame in asking for help, they can approach all of their subjects with the same confidence, fill in every learning gap and hit next academic year ready to rock.
Abby Freireich and Brian Platzer are the authors of “Taking the Stress out of Homework: Organizational, Content Specific Test Prep Strategies to Help Your Children Help Themselves ” You can catch all of their advice custom-made for MyTutor – with answers to audience questions – in the recording of our home study webinar right here.